Every good amateur naturalist should have quality field guides! Online resources like GoBotany and dirty botany are important, of course, but sometimes you just need to thumb through a good book.

These are our favorite guidebooks here at dirty botany…we’d be lost without them! In most cases, a good guide is going to be specific to your region. When applicable, these are specific to the Eastern United States or New England, of course.


Wildflowers of New England, Timber Press Field Guide –  This is the newest guide, written by Ted Elliman and the New England Wild Flower Society.  This is the first new regional guide since Newcomb’s, so it’s quite exciting! We loooove this guide. Check out our full review of Wildflowers of New England HERE!


Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide – This has been the classic New England guide for a number of years. Tried and true. We usually keep a copy in the Jeep….just in case. The key is NOT based on flower color like Wildflowers of New England, so it’s helpful to have around when trying to key out a plant that is not in bloom!


Flora Novae Anglicae – Want to get serious about knowing your plants? Take this book for a spin!  Don’t expect pretty pictures, but DO expect lots of Latin. This is written by Arthur Haines, and is actually the guide that the GoBotany website is based on. This is THE plant reference guide to have (and looks quite impressive on your bookshelf, to boot).


Wild Orchids of The Northeast – This is THE native orchid book for the New England, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I think Keith has read his copy cover to cover at least a dozen times! I’m not quite as motivated, but it is certainly where to go when I need to verify a species or look up bloom times! We each have OUR OWN copy….so you know it’s well used!


Peterson Field Guide to Ferns: Northeastern and Central North America, 2nd edition –  An invaluable reference for true ferns, succulent ferns (our favorites! the Botrychiums and Ophioglossums), clubmosses, firmmosses, horsetails, quillworts and spikemosses.  These genera make up a large portion of the forest life and are important habitat indicators. This guide has a wealth of information on each species and includes detailed drawings as well as pictures, which is an important identification aid when it come to ferns!

Lichen and mosses:

Lichens of North America – If a book about lichens could be drool-worthy, this is it!! HUGE, too. Just amazing, with almost 10 pounds of detailed lichen pictures and descriptions! There are region-specific guides for a lot of areas of the country, but you will not be sorry if you buy this book. It’s probably not going to fit in your backpack, though….Be sure to check out our full review of Lichens of North America HERE!

Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians (Princeton Field Guides)  – There are about 200 species included in this book, which covers just about any moss you will find in New England! Identifying mosses can be a little daunting at first, but armed with this book and a hand lens, you’ll be a pro in no time!



Insects of New England and New York – Bugs and beetles and spiders, oh my! This is a great guide to identify insects by picture. There is not too much detail by way of habitat or life cycle for each species, but it will give you an ID to launch further research from.


Beetles of Eastern North America – My newest addition to the bug bookshelf!! This beetle guide book came highly recommended, and it did not disappoint! Beautiful pictures, easy to scan through. Great family descriptions as well as species.


Peterson Field Guide to Moths  –  For Northeastern America, this is the BEST moth guide out there. I feel the quality of the binding leaves a bit to be desired, but the content more than makes up for it. Mine is well loved…let’s just put it that way 🙂


Caterpillars of Eastern North America – I’m not certain this is the most complete caterpillar guide, but it’s certainly easy to use, with large photos and good information such as common hosts, habitats, and identification tips.


A great backyard botanist has a full library of field guides behind him! These are our favorites; we’d love to hear any suggestions from you!

Please be advised that these are, of course, Amazon affiliate links.

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